Belfast Telegraph

Claudy families still craving justice as they prepare to honour the dead

By Adrian Rutherford

A man who lost his brother in the Claudy bombing has said the pain and anguish is as raw today as it ever was.

David Temple was speaking as relatives prepare to mark the 45th anniversary of the IRA attack next week.

Nine people, Protestant and Catholic, were killed when three bombs exploded in the Co Londonderry village on July 31, 1972. Around 30 others were injured.

Among the dead was William Temple. The 16-year-old from Donemana, Co Tyrone, was a milkman's helper and his round included the village.

Ahead of Monday's anniversary, his brother David said he can never forget the heartache of that day.

"Forty-five years is more than half a lifetime for most people, and many who have not been impacted by terrorism will often say it's time those people moved on, it's so long ago," he said.

"For me, my family and other families impacted by terrorism, the day we lost our loved one is as fresh today as it was in the immediate aftermath."

The dead also included eight-year-old Kathryn Eakin, who was cleaning the windows of her family's grocery store when the first bomb exploded.

The others were: Joseph McCloskey (39); David Miller (60); James McClelland (65); Elizabeth McElhinney (59); Rose McLaughlin (51); Patrick Connolly (15), and 38-year-old Arthur Hone.

No group has ever claimed responsibility and no one has been convicted of the atrocity.

In 2010 a Police Ombudsman's report said detectives had concluded that the late Fr James Chesney, who was later moved to the Republic, was a suspect. It said the police, the State and the Catholic Church had covered up his suspected role in the bombings. No action was ever taken against Fr Chesney, who died in 1980.

Earlier this year it was reported that PSNI detectives believed in 2007 that they had accumulated enough evidence to question former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness over the attack. However, no action was taken.

Mr Temple believes Mr McGuinness, a former IRA commander in Derry in the early 1970s, died without passing on vital information.

He also believes some still living in the community can help identify the bombers.

"When Martin McGuinness died earlier this year refusing to provide any accountability around Claudy, many fear that the truth of Claudy may be buried with him," Mr Temple added.

"But there remains within our community those who are clear on what happened in Claudy and they must make (that) known."

Mr Temple added: "The families of Claudy come from across the community - Protestant and Roman Catholic - our tears are the same and our pain is no different.

"It is so important for my family that we are able to join together with others on Monday night to collectively remember our loved ones and give thanks for their lives."

Mr Temple also criticised the lack of help and support for victims' families. He believes a fresh investigation is needed.

"The Claudy families have been treated with contempt down the years; we simply have not factored in the priorities of those who should be there to do what is right by us," he said.

"We received a totally inadequate HET (Historical Enquiries Team) review of the atrocity and we came out the other side of that process with more questions than answers.

"My family and I know others feel likewise and want Claudy to be given the focus and priority that it never has been. We want a proper investigation which has a starting point of going to and uncovering the truth of what happened. I want those who carried out the bombings to be held publicly accountable for their actions.

"The Historical Investigations Unit - if it is ever legislated for - must re-examine Claudy. We will not accept the crumbs under the table any longer.

"Forty-five years may have passed but justice must still be done, otherwise feelings of injustice will continue down the generations of my family and others."

Victims' campaigner Kenny Donaldson heads the South East Fermanagh Foundation, which has supported some of the Claudy families and is assisting with arrangements for next Monday's 45th anniversary.

"Claudy is one of those horrific atrocities of the Troubles which has gone unresolved," he said.

The community service of remembrance and thanksgiving will be held next Monday at 7.30pm within the car park that houses the memorial to the Claudy victims.

Representatives from the Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church and Church of Ireland will facilitate the service.

Mr Donaldson added: "We are working with the main Churches across the community, families and others, in trying to co-ordinate events on Monday night.

"We seek to honour the memory and legacy of those who were stolen away."

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